Mudlark Flash No. 84 (2014)

The Harvest from a Field on Fire
Five Poems by Rachel Kubie

“These poems all stem from the Moral Monday protests here in North Carolina this past summer. I am one of more than 940 arrestees who engaged in civil disobedience at the legislative building in Raleigh.”   — RK

How to get Arrested

The silver horses of the government stamp
restless in front of the moon. All night legislators whistle,
clinging tightly to the dome of the capitol. They float
untouchable in their dreams. They thought the horses theirs.

If you have plowed the ground, stand in the rows
of wheat, stand in the apple trees.
If you have built a house, stand in your house.
If you can sing, sing.
They will tie your hands in front or in back,
a symbolic gesture, as poetry is symbolic.

The silver buses with grated windows
exhale and turn slowly from the lifted gate
from the dark under the government building.
Upstairs with the brass doors sealed
senators call out late into the night.

In moonlight along the cooling roads,
the people who are called the people
are singing and slapping the flanks of the buses
which roll easily through the night air toward the prison.

a preacher calls from the fields behind the senate

in the seed of the year beyond the year
there was no harvest but tears
caught in whipping yellow weeds like dust
cast on dry rock cast on sand
and nothing nothing
but wind storms grew

make my back the plow
let me start the work week
let me break a gash in the ground
where the burnt grass hissed
at the hunger of my congregation
and when justice in its flood comes down
here lord here are the fields needing soaking

self-portrait with HB 589

always something complicated always something wrong
why not accuse why not ask why not hover why not call out
while i search my pockets search my purse
the duties of a citizen spilling nervous as scattered change
while i prove it to you prove it tripping the particulars
the long lines will be parted with the late light the polls
closing before night comes those at the threshold
stepping back and someone always had the right to stand in the door
to make the questions up the lines will close before i answer
every shadowed line of my face filling with the night outside
and the empty building locked a broken streetlamp and a flag
hanging limp in the quiet without a breath of air to lift it

Note: House Bill 589, with massive changes to voting laws, was rushed through the North Carolina legislature with almost no public notice in the late summer of 2013. It was introduced on the heels of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court case which struck down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and it enacts voting practices that the VRA would not have allowed, especially in Southern states and counties where voter repression and intimidation had long been common practice from the reconstruction to the civil rights movement.

Among many changes, the new law allows vigilante poll watchers, and the direct challenging of voters at the polls, requires strict forms of identification beyond a voter registration card, shortens early voting, halts programs to help older teens register for the first time, and places other restrictions on qualifications and access to voting (including not allowing polls to remain open for long lines during elections).

The new law is being challenged by a number of groups, including the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and now the US Department of Justice. It introduces the most severe restrictions on voting in the country.

In the Wild

In the capital, the bird-like hearts of senators
perch in a forest of ribs: silent, graceful predators.
They are nocturnal. There is testimony from the microphone.
The words are like singing at dusk. The words are like weather,
like warm dark air before a storm. The listeners have flown
to shelter. I can walk in the shade of their many solitudes, a canopy
like thick green leaves with slender branches. I can hear
in the distance a call and response of light, irrepressible song.
I look up to the startled, interrupted music. The wings blur,
huge and beautiful, into sudden quiet, all flown from my glances.

how to keep a country

sing in buses up the mountain side
from the backs of trucks unload the folding chairs
fill up the public squares and in the breeze
outside the courthouse test the mics
test the bullhorns write your jokes and poems
on the poster board file over the bridges
and under the bridges and along the way
while the person next to you is listening
the two of you are house and senate
magnanimous in the sunshine

Rachel Kubie is a public reference librarian in Charlotte, NC. She attended the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins “and had the good luck to study under Allen Grossman there.” She also has the MLS from Catholic University in DC. Her work has appeared in Drunken Boat, Oyster Boy Review, Rattapallax, Rhino, Sou’wester, and Potomac Review among other magazines, and in the anthologies Imperial Messages: 100 Modern Parables (2nd ed.) and Final Harvest: Jewish Writing from St. Louis.

The five poems in The Harvest from a Field on Fire took shape as drafts in the Tupelo Press online 30/30 project (during which poets attempt to post 30 drafts in 30 days).

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